As another summer ends and a new school year approaches, many of us parents begin the task of preparing our children for their first day back to school. We shop for the necessary school supplies, we update their wardrobes, and we ensure they have the immunizations and booster shots necessary to continue in school. Children should also have a dental exam before returning to school to ensure they have a healthy mouth and the tools they need to maintain it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects U.S. children more than any other chronic infectious disease. It is estimated that 19 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 have untreated tooth decay. Tooth decay can lead to dental pain, which can impair a child’s ability to eat, speak, play and learn at school. In fact, it has been estimated that today’s children miss over 51 million school hours due to dental issues. Here are some back-to-school dental tips to help prevent tooth decay and dental issues:
ENCOURAGE GOOD ORAL HYGIENE. It is important to encourage children of all ages to brush their teeth twice a day and floss daily. Younger children may need you to help them brush and floss and check to make sure they’ve thoroughly cleaned their teeth as many of them miss the back teeth and the gumline areas. For older children and teenagers, you can lead by example by practicing good oral hygiene yourself.
SCHEDULE REGULAR DENTAL EXAMS. It is recommended that most children see the dentist at least every six months for a dental examination, x-rays (as needed), and a cleaning. These visits not only keep children’s teeth free of tartar and plaque build-up, but also allow the dentist to diagnose and treat any small dental concerns before they become more severe.
CONSIDER A MOUTH GUARD. For children that play contact sports, such as football, basketball, lacrosse, or wrestling, a custom mouth guard can help protect their teeth, lips, and jaw from injury. A custom mouth guard designed by a dentist specifically to fit your child’s teeth is much more protective than a store bought one.
HEALTHY EATING. If your child brings their lunch, consider including healthier lunch items and snacks such as grains, milk, cheese, raw vegetables, yogurt or fruit, instead of sugary foods or soft drinks. If your child eats in the school cafeteria, review healthy, balanced food choices with them before the first day of school.
We hope these tips will allow everyone in your family to have the beautiful, healthy smile they deserve for back-to-school and help them maintain it throughout the school year and beyond.